Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Friday, February 28, 2014

Of Sunshine & Garmin!

On the Tin Bridge
Days like these are rare indeed!  Especially the end of February!  Jack drove Lynn up to meet me at Bracken.  It was so warm, so beautiful & with a light breeze.  If we could clone a day like this one & then use them when we needed - life in Western, WA would be grand & - we'd probably have so many people moving here that what's left of our open spaces would dissapear...
Whitehorse Trail heading to Darrington!
Someday - someday - we'll head out this way & go all the way to Darrington!  I hope Farah & I will be the first to do this one too!  Years from now - that's for sure.

I'm without my Garmin & feel positively naked without it!  Garmin had updated all their software & I'd updated all of mine last week with the assistance of a Tech.  We checked to be sure that my 310 was synched & all seemed to be fine.  Right - just fine, until I tried to download the miles from our ride on Tue.  No matter what I did - nothing happened.  So - Wed. I called again - got Tech support & we went through All the steps - nothing...  Even switched computers...  nothing.  So - the Tech said;  "OK, we need to clear all the information on your device."  Not the words that I wanted to hear.  We did that - still data would not transfer.

After another long period on "hold" - my tech told me that Garmin would be sending me a brand new 310!  Something in the device had glitched.   My new one should be here on Monday & my old one is on it's way back to Garmin.  Really a super company to deal with - I just hope they're done updating the software & that my new one doesn't have Any issues!
The Stillaquamish - still low
The parking area was almost full when we arrived at noon & almost empty by the time we were leaving around 4.  Farah lead going out, but settled enough that Sophie lead heading back.  WE did a couple nice trots & even worked up some sweat!  Everyone so happy to be out enjoying such a nice day!  The trails were amazingly dry & holding up well to all the traffic.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Amblin' in the Sunshine~

Watery Trail~
After days & days of rain - Lynn & I met at Kathryn Tailor in Redmond for a ride!   By the time we were saddling up about noon, the sun was so warm that I decided on No jacket!  I even removed my thin thermal top!   It didn't take long until we realized that even here, where trails are notoriously good year-round - that it was wet.
Farah enjoys grass!
 When we stopped at the drainage basin, the grass was growing & Farah took advantage :-)  Also - Finally...  the frogs are in song!  Even during daylight we could hear a few crokes!   As I watched - here hopped the little guy below!
Western WA frog :-)
Obviously - they're trying to make up time for the cold February weather that kept them quiet longer than I can remember.   Farah was in full "ornery" mode this day.  Tossing her head, threatening Sophie whenever there was the slightest chance that Sophie might want to pass.  Without my saddle - it makes it hard for me to correct her - but I managed.  Shortly after - we saw two good size Coyote's!  They were determined to stay in the area - so we're wondering if pups are already on the ground?
Lynn & Sophie enjoy the sun!
I told Lynn, I'll owe her miles in the rear - once I'm back in my saddle.  Still recovering from whatever bug those sweet little granddaughters passed to me, I started feeling queasy mid-afternoon - so decided to dismount & do some walking.  Farah took offense to this & picked the fabric of my sleeve off my elbow!  That move resulted in her getting a stern correction & she instantly backed off.   I can already tell that the gold girl is getting her early Spring Attitude!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting OUT!

On our way~
The day started with blazing sunshine!  It didn't last long before the thunderstorms started rolling by...  Then - the sun reappeared!  OK - that's enough!  I'm Out of here!  Saddled Farah & we started up our usual way to the power lines, that now has the locked gate.  On our way - we saw Lots of hoof prints!   Other riders have found their way into the trails, now that the fence at 132nd is down.
Wetland overflowing~
 Wet!  It was unreal how wet things have gotten!  All that rain we've been getting has turned most of the trails to slop.  Soon we were at the gate...  I tied Farah off to a tree & started looking around.  Found a way to start breaking through.  Almost through - there were several vine maples that had fallen & blocked my path.  I tried to break them, no luck, stepped on them, they went down a little.  I went back for Farah & she was game to follow.  
Where we got out!
Just as I was almost out, she stopped.  I looked back to see one of the vine maples had popped back up & was as high as the top of her leg.  She couldn't move.  I stepped on it, she lifted that leg, but still didn't move?  OK, finally I realized that a horse does have four...  looked at her hind legs, to find another vine maple stifle high on the hind leg.  Now what to do?  I stepped on the one in front, pushed on the one in back & in one big move - Farah freed both legs & moved forward!  As we broke through the last of the blackberry to the road - I gave a big "Yippee" & I swear Farah was as pleased as I was!  We were OUT!
Farah with the blackberry leaves :-)
That gave us back our short loop!  The clouds were starting to roll back in & it felt cold.   So we headed south down the hills.
Wetlands between the north & south power line access~
At the bottom, we turned in the orange gate & down to the paved roads.  Besides a few more beer cans tossed around & car tracks up on grass at the sides of the paving, it was quiet.
At the drainage basin, rain & sunshine~
Ducks flew up off the pond, we kept moving.  I didn't feel like having to dry out my sheepskin seat cover.  Once we crested the ridge back to our side, it was beautiful to see the rain pouring out of the clouds...
View on our way home~
It was short, but it was sweet! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Visit to Ballard~

Butch heading over to his construction trailer~
It was a wet, rainy day in the City & everywhere else in Western, WA too...   I had to get up early...  to accompany Butch to his job site in Ballard.  I'd been wanting to go down & see how the self-storage building was progressing from the almost empty lot that I'd seen in Sept.
From across the street~
As you can tell from the photos, things have changed a lot!
Working in the rain~
The building will be five stories when completed, with a drive through at ground level.  It's always amazing to see a building going up - especially if it's one my husband is doing.
Looking down the front~

This day though - was one filled with sadness...   Later in the morning we attended the funeral of the owner of one of the sub-contracting companies that Sea Con has used for many years.  I'd only met Terry a couple times, but with the first warm handshake, I knew that all the things I'd heard about this man had to be true.  His personal warmth, character, caring attitude & life filled with the love of his family & many friends... cut way too short at only 58...

We were part of a 50 car procession that took us from the Holy Apostles Creek Orthodox Church in Shoreline, to the graveside service at Lake View Cemetery on Capitol Hill, non-stop.  Six motor-cycle police officers escorted the motorcade several miles through heavy traffic & stormy weather, without incident.  (Many people honoring the tradition of pulling to the side of the road as the procession passed.)  At the gate - the officers stood by their bikes & saluted as we entered - bringing tears to my eyes...

We all stood in the wind & rain, listening to the words of comfort - our hearts & minds full of the memories of a man who left his indelible stamp on all who had the honor of knowing him.  Rest in Peace, Terry...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Centennial Trail - Southern Extension Celebration!

Farah greets Lynn :-)
This day was one of Celebration for those who have worked tirelessly toward the continuing expansion of the Centennial Trail.  Washington State was one of the first to recognize the value in the Rails-To-Trails systems that are being expanded across the U.S.  Then - start the long process of acquiring the easements that are the backbone of the lineal trails.

All trail users were invited to the Ceremony of the signing of the purchase & sale agreement for the next 12-miles of trail!   I'd hoped that we'd have equestrians there - with their horses!  (Sadly, that didn't happen - even Lynn had other meetings to attend, so was unable to bring Bizy.)  Originally, the ceremony was scheduled to be held outside, but at the last minute the venue was changed to a room at the Senior Center.  I walked Farah there & she started gathering a crowd of friendly trail users & supporters. 

Everyone was in a festive mood, even on a gray morning.  People coming in off the trail, parents with toddlers, babies, kids who's eyes widened when they saw Farah calmly standing near the front door :-)  Soon, she was the highlight of the morning, posing for photos with several children happily sitting in the saddle for the very first time!    One young man asked if he could put his bike next to Farah - then stand next to it for his photo :-)  Adults too, seemed charmed with Farah's calm demeanor & friendly attitude.  We talked "trail" until the signing was completed.
Photos with the County Executive & Council Members
I was directed to put Farah front & center for the photos~!  By this time, my pockets were empty of cookies & she was missing her usual morning nap :-)  She was so relaxed, even as more & more people surrounded her - I think she about went to sleep!  :-)
With the Mayor & other trail supporters~
 I hope to get some better photos of Farah in the next couple days & if I do - I'll use it as an excuse for another post :-)   There was a second ceremony at Machias Station for the Past Forward Interpretative Project.  I couldn't ride the the five-miles of trail & arrive in time for the presentation - so we headed home.

Even though Farah was the only horse, she seemed to make a very positive impact on everyone there.  Demonstrating by example that a horse can be mannerly & friendly with strangers, even when surrounded by a lot people in very close proximity.   The kind of one-on-one  that's needed to promote continued equestrian use on these multi-use -urban trails!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Great Day to be Alive!

Farah admires the view~
It started out disappointing, I'd hoped for a long ride with a friend, but she didn't have time to trailer up my way...  So - since the day was clearing off, just a few large thunderheads floating over - Farah & I headed to Victoria.
Slightly frozen wetland~
I didn't have any particular agenda - just to cover some ground & see what we could see.  It was quiet, only one other trailer in the parking area when we arrived.  We started out on the regular "loop", heading up to the monument.  The view didn't disappoint - but enough haze in the air to obscure the Olympics.
Looking northwest from the Monument
I decided to head on back down the long downhill & continue to check out the far roads that I've wanted to for a while now.  I got off & started walking - Diane had messaged me, so decided to call her.   Stretching out my walk, Farah stretched out hers & kept nudging my elbow to speed me up :-)  Diane entertained me with ride stories & I could almost see her & the black mare walking along side us - as they'd done so many times before :-)   Yes - I miss her~
Looking east off the ridge~
Every once in a while a cloud would cover the sun & it would feel chilly - but on a 50 degree day in February - there were no complaints coming from me!   On our way - we passed a man with a walking stick & dog, the only person we saw.  After we did some exploring down in the lowlands,  Farah hit her trot on the return, by the time we were engaged in the hill - she went into a gallop.  I thought the walker would be gone - but no - he was still on the hill & as we flew by he yelled;   "Beautiful Horse!"  Made my day :-)
Farah having lunch at the Monument
We crested that hill - at the top finding two ladies on foot at the junction.  We turned left & Farah exploded up the next hill!  I'd told myself that I wouldn't do any fast work while riding the Big Horn, but I just couldn't pull her up  - by the crest we hit 26.7.  This saddle is 15-lbs. lighter than my Meridian - but I'm noticing a huge difference in Farah's attitude.  I can tell that finally - she's more comfortable.   I cringe at what she's put up with over the last year as I tried to make something that didn't work - work.  Now, being ridden in a saddle that cost $350. almost 24 years ago...   the behavioral issues are starting to melt away...  Yes, it's a little tight through the wither, but I'm getting a much better sweat pattern & today we did work up a sweat! 

No word yet from Randy on the new tree...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Slip & Slide~

Today's Route
The sun kept trying to break through the clouds this morning.  I checked the weather report & it looked like we'd have a few hours without rain!  Time to Cowgirl Up - saddle my mare with the Big Horn Saddle & ride!   Since we're now limited to one way out - we took it!  Farah was sinking in with every step, the frozen ground is now in the defrost mode, somewhat boggy & slippery.

Farah likes breaking ice!  When we came to some frozen, large puddles on the single track, she'd put a foot on - watch as her hoof broke through the ice, then place the other front foot on!  We'd listen for the crack & the ice would shatter out from her foot.    The sound of her breaking through, then the splash as she continued on was pretty cool.  Thin enough To break - that was Good!
At the "T" above, we turned south onto this trail
We took the above trail out to the power lines, went along it  for a way south - then turned in east onto the second trail.
Second trail heading east~
We followed it again - until we came to the creek & no bridge.  This time I decided to get off & climb through the underbrush to get a photo of this incredibly beautiful wetland.
Wetland, looking north~
It was a pretty quiet late morning, early afternoon.  The birds are tweeting again - happy I'm sure that maybe the freezing weather for this year is past?  It was almost 50, with a little breeze - my jacket came off, then back on.
Farah waits patiently :-)
 In one place, where we could actually pick up a trot, my stirrup fell off!  Ut Oh!  Stopped, recovered it & put it back on.  With the way I'd had the straps on the fenders shortened - there's no longer a bumper guard to keep them on.  Have to be sure that the Blevins buckles are secure.  I've added my sheepskin seat saver too - that's improved my comfort.  May look for a set of bucking rolls this weekend -that would give me a little more security too.  Farah's doing pretty well in it, some threats to buck - (Learned behavior?) but it's a little tight through the wither - so probably not much  better than what she's been putting up with.
Nice mess!
As we were returning through the future development/paved area... we found this mess!  Next, heard a truck coming.  The driver stopped - a couple who live not far away & were concerned about all the fast driving cars that were passing their house over the weekend & into the late hours of the night!  Amazing how short a time it takes for people to find out that a semi-private area is now open to the public...  Then trash it!  Nice people, they plan to call the police when they see that much going on again...  Amazing the stories that are circulating about this area.  How far can you go - can you get to Arlington on the Power Lines, etc., etc. etc.  
Farah watching the neighbor's cattle
By the time we turned for home, the temperature was dropping & the wind had come up.  We were home less than an hour when the rain started.  So very good to get out!  Hope the rest of the week isn't the total wash that the weatherman is predicting!

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Birthday!

Entrance of Rhodes River Ranch
Hoping for sunshine, I knew it wasn't going to happen.  It was a typical Western Washington Winter Day...  Gray, wet - but warmer!   A kiss from my husband started my day, then I found the pretty flower & card in the kitchen!  Next, a call from Mom!  I feel so lucky to have my Mom in my life!  Our daughter Jentry called yesterday & invited me to lunch today at one of my favorite places!  Couldn't resist the opportunity see her & those two little granddaughters that we love so much! 
Entry Signage
I headed out mid-morning & enjoyed the drive east from Arlington.  It had been a while since I'd been to visit the ranch - so the new entry was a surprise!  Stunning & perfect for the ranch.
Would have loved to see these on today!
The new gate, posts, hardware, lighting - all just beautiful & only adding to the natural beauty of the area outside Oso, WA.
Marble Sculpture
I wanted to ask where the marble came from, maybe the quarry I know in Colorado?  Very beautiful stone & interesting artistic impression.
Once inside, the Restaurant ahead!
The food is So good here - that even if you don't have a horse, or a real reason to visit - you need to - for the food!  I had the spinach salad & added a side of candied bacon to compliment it!   Jentry & the girls brought me a pink rainbow pony birthday balloon & very useful gifts for the camper!

Once I was back in cell range, there was a message from a strange musical group that I've only heard once or twice before - singing me the Birthday Song!  The message said something about everyone being under the weather... but besides sounding a little off-key - I think I recognized the lead signer as our oldest daughter,  accompanied by grand-kids; Mason & Cassidy!

Great day!  Thanks everyone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Covering Country~

"Typical" Trail at the Bryce XP
Since my one time at a multi-day ride, was well before I started this blog - today I will digress back - almost seven years now & comment on what I learned there & what I'm learning still.  The title of this post was given to me by Randy - of Timberline Trees.  He's a man who rides the wilderness country of UT often & until more recently - usually on his own.

We started out talking saddle trees, then the conversation moved to security in the saddle.  If you speak to anyone who's spent the hours & hours, miles & miles out Covering Country - they will all speak the same language - that of the importance of a secure seat in a saddle.  This type of rider isn't trying to cover 50-miles faster than an opponent - but they're out to cover usually many more miles - over many days & get to where they're going.
Duck's camp getting set up~
It makes no difference how great a rider you think you are - or how much experience you've had - when a horse wants to drop & spin - the momentum alone will usually be enough to put you on the ground.  If it doesn't - at least you're left off-balance & probably regaining a stirrup.  Randy has designed a tree with a secure seat - for his personal use.  When he rode it & his horse suddenly did just that trick, he found himself looking at the view of where he'd been!  This without having moved in the saddle at all!  Now - that's a secure seat!
Typical trail at the Bryce XP
I rode Bryce in my first Meridian Saddle - it was big, heavy & not set right for me...  But - it was "secure"!  As I've mentioned many times before, when you don't have the worry of coming off, when - not if - something unexpected happens - you then have the ability to control your horse & that allows you to control your ride!
Khari & Dakota - "love" :-)
That big Meridian saddle saved me, when we were traversing a steep, tiny, uphill trail cut into the side of a shale mountain.   There was a tree about 1/2 way up - when we got there - Khari started jumping, bucking & took us backward off that trail - she was being stung by bees!  We were sliding down fast - she was struggling to get enough purchase to get us back up onto that trail!  I just sat there - (My life flashing in front of my eyes...)  I wasn't in her way - I wasn't coming off & after what seemed like an eternity - she made one final, valiant effort & regained the trail!

Only one of several close-calls we had on that ride!  Peggy & I have lifelong memories to "enjoy".  Dakota has gone on to carry her over 4,000 miles & I've moved on too.  Not with Khari, not on those multi-days that I loved so much...  But - I'm enjoying the miles of fine country that I cover now on Farah!

When you're getting a little older, wiser & want to continue to ride for a long while - it's always best to err on the side of caution & do whatever works to keep doing what you love!   There are some beautiful saddles out here - regardless of what discipline they're designed for.  Security doesn't mean that you're locked into the seat.  (I like a slick seat - being able to adjust my seat for the terrain or speed...)   It's that magic combination of tree, rigging, seat & balance.  If you find yourself riding scared, or coming off too often - then take the time - to take a look at something that might work better!  It's always the journey~  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saddle Trees~

Mine on the left, more "standard" tree on the right~
Again - I find that the more I thought I might know about saddle trees - the less I really did!  What an interesting process this is becoming.
Cantle view - Mine on the right
I've been referred to this link for a education in how Western Saddles are made.   American Saddle Makers Association.

Pommel view - My tree on the left.
What we noticed is that my tree had almost no angle to the bars...  much flatter than in a standard tree & very little flare.  The bars are also too long - creating some bridging.  The gullet may actually have been too wide, which allowed the saddle to drop in front - causing the shimmy in back & lack of contact there.

There's very little twist - not what I had ordered.  The pommel size of my saddle, narrower - & the shorter bars in front of it - are what is fairly common in an "endurance" saddle.  Western saddles have a wider swell, or at least that's my understanding as of today.
Rear view - mine on the right
Not many people have a custom saddle torn down - so you don't often have the opportunity to see what's inside.  I enjoyed my conversation with Randy of Timberline Trees today.  He said that we breed the type of horse that we use for the part of the country we're riding in, along with the job that they're intended to do.  If I'd shipped my saddle down to Texas - for instance - it might have sold.  There - where the terrain is relatively flat, the horses are built broader, with much lower withers.  Riders aren't concerned with saddles slipping up over the withers - since there are no steep mountains to climb or slide down.  As those of us in the more mountainous areas of the country know - we need those withers to keep the saddle in place & us with it!

As a horse ages & the miles start adding up - their back will respond by hollowing a little at the wither & becoming more defined.  With all the variables involved - it's difficult to find any one saddle that will work for all.  (We don't all wear the same kind or size of shoe.)

The next step in the process - the tree is being shipped to Randy - so that he can take it, along with Farah's measurements to produce a raw tree.  (The original tree is important - in that the hope is to re-use the leather that was on the saddle to save $.)   Once the raw tree is made - Randy will ship it back to Everett, so he & I can check the fit & make any adjustments - before the tree is completed.  This will take a bit longer - but at least we'll be sure of the fit.  There is little bar difference between my "endurance" tree & a "standard" one.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Riding in the Big Horn~

Farah in the Bighorn Saddle
Well...  Lynn & I decided to ride at Lord Hill, maybe warmer than higher up in the mountains.  I doubt it made much difference, it was still in the mid-30's with a slight breeze.  With my saddle gone...  I'm back to using the Big Horn & not at all happy about it.  I hadn't touched it or ridden in it, since Khari had thrown me so hard back in March of 2011.  It hadn't been on Farah's back until today.  I had Lynn take a look at the fit, she suggested a thinner pad, which she had in her trailer.  We used it, since the gullet width is on the borderline of being too narrow for Farah's withers...  I'd hoped that it would suit her better for the interim, but now have my doubts.

We headed up the rocky trail, Farah in the lead - at a good walk - when hikers came over the crest & she spooked & tried to whirl...  Not like her - she was feeling my insecurity I'm sure.  I managed to save myself - good thing we were only walking!   She caught heck for it, I got a unwelcome adrenalin rush & we continued on.
It was a beautiful afternoon, blue sky, fresh air, cold breeze (we didn't need that) & the trails were in good shape.  The rest of the ride was uneventful, but I did get off on a couple of the steeper downhills, not wanting to put any undue pressure on her withers until I get a feel for how she feels in this saddle.
Lynn takes a photo of the view~
We rode for a couple hours, got in a few miles & by the end of it - I was feeling a little better, but sure not ready to take on any mad gallops!  Good to get out - good to be riding with Lynn - but sure not as much "fun" when I'm worried about my seat!
Farah, worried about the sheep~
It was the first time I can think of in forever that I was actually glad when we returned to the trailers & I could dismount - still in one piece!  :-)  Tomorrow I'll post photos that Mr. Olson has sent of the tree of my Meridian saddle...